*Odell Beckham Jr. made some big plays at Giants practice Saturday: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – This does not exactly qualify as an upset, but the loudest cheers by the enthusiastic fans at the Giants' training camp practice today were produced by Odell Beckham, Jr.
On the very first snap of the very first 11-on-11 drill, Beckham was far behind the nearest defender when he caught a pass deep down the right side from Eli Manning. The crowd roared. It did so again when Beckham dove and secured the ball on the opposite side, just yards from the packed bleachers. And when Beckham grabbed a short Manning pass and continued sprinting when the defenders pulled up, he was applauded again for simply running.
Brandon Marshall was not among those clapping and yelling, but it's doubtful few derived as much enjoyment from Beckham's receiving theatrics. With Beckham continuing to catch passes and score touchdowns at a pace few, if any, wideouts can equal, opposing secondaries will have to focus on slowing him down. And that will leave fewer defensive backs to monitor Marshall, the 12-year veteran with 941 career catches who joined the Giants in March.
"Absolutely, that's why I came here, because of him," Marshall said. "I'm tired of getting double coverage and vised in the red zone. I'll let him freakin' carry all the weight."
Beckham did not participate in most of the spring drills, so Marshall and he have actually spent very little time together on the field. But Marshall watched him from afar for three seasons, and has been around him enough to know that Beckham will be the object of much more cheering like he heard today.
"Odell obviously is the best player in the NFL, and he's going to get a lot of attention on and off the field," Marshall said. "As a teammate, you have to be there to support him. You have to be able to deal with that as well because he's not even a superstar, he's a rock star. It's something that our NFL has never seen before. This guy's a global icon at the age of what, 24 or 25?"
Marshall had his own big play to enjoy, opening a seven-on-seven drill by jumping high over cornerback Janoris Jenkins to snag an Eli Manning pass. The catch not only displayed Marshall's athleticism, leaping ability and strong hands, but his developing rapport with Manning.
"It was nice to see on the first play of training camp, he gets a ball thrown to him and makes a nice play," coach Ben McAdoo said. "There's going to be a learning curve there, there will be some ups and downs like there are. But Brandon's played a lot of football, and we're confident that he'll come a long way fast. He's a tremendous communicator. There's a lot of teaching and learning going on both ways: coach to player, player to coach, player to player. That always helps, and being a great communicator is important, so that'll help facilitate the process."
But Marshall admits it has a ways to go. That was evident when he expressed his frustration when Manning threw him a pass down the middle that didn't connect.
"It's timing, it was there," Marshall said. "That's where Eli was supposed to go with the ball and as a receiver, you got to build that chemistry with your quarterback. What I did wasn't wrong if it was a different offense. I throttled in the zone and Eli wants you to run through it. So it wasn't like I slowed down, but iI burst through that first hole and I would've caught the ball. So literally, I was like a foot away from making a big play for the team, but I missed it because of that timing. So now, I got it and I won't make that mistake again."
Quarterback and receiver were just a little out of sync, which can and should be smoothed out during camp and the preseason.
"Eli, I think he's third in the league with getting the ball out (quickly)," Marshall said. "So as a receiver, when you get in and out of breaks, you've got to get your head around. Playing with other guys that had strong arms, there's some guys that have strong arms and they wait to see if you're open. Eli, he has a very good arm, and he also has amazing timing. So that's the difference. Eli is one of the best at getting the ball out fast, and as a receiver, you've got to get your head around and you've got to run."
How long will it take for Manning and Marshall to get on the same page?
"I can't answer that," he said. "It takes plays like that, right? To be really good in the league, you can't make the same mistakes twice. You've got to be able to coach and be coached up on the fly. I was able to see it and feel it, and I went to the side and talked to Eli about it a little bit, and now I know when I have that route, I'll hit it in there a little faster."
While their rapport is developing, Marshall can be like everyone else on the Giants and enjoying watching Beckham perform every day.
View the best photos from Saturday's Training Camp practice